How long?

April 19, 2011

Often, I come across topics of great interest to me…but if the article or write up is very lengthy, I find that I start skimming towards the end, and perhaps (though I don’t like to think so) missing important points. So I was wondering…how long should write ups and articles be?

I was having a conversation with Meera of Citizen Matters; she wanted me to write something, restricting myself to 750 words, and I had my usual complaint….”that’s like wringing out all the meat and printing the dried-out skeleton!” But she made a valid point…that today, attention spans (yes, I suppose, mine too!) are shrinking, and no one wants to wade through more than 1500 words at most.

This post was brought on by an article about sugar being a poison, sent by . It was so long, that I did kind of lose interest, and skipped here and there, finding the general gist rather than reading the article in depth.

I find that with experienced “speed reading”, one can get the drift of an article pretty well; but would it not be better, on the part of the article writer, to keep the write-up to just the length where skipping and skimming would not be necessary, and the details would stay with the reader…?

Of course, I am talking about general interest topics, not technical or scientific theses, or novels…but even there, I wonder if writers don’t often fall into the trap of being prolix . Good editing is, I think, a must for everything that is written. Tautness, and not tautology, should be the norm. All those 1000-page reports…whoever reads them? Perhaps “Gone With the Wind” is “Gone With Too Much Wind”?

Oh well, let me stop here, before I fall prey to the same fault…I think I could have skipped that last paragraph!